>David Copperfield is So Post Postmodern


Young Charles Dickens

 So I’m reading David Copperfield, which makes Great Expectations look like chicken feet. Dickens employs certain techniques that are very far ahead of his time, such as switching from the past tense to the present for a rush of immediacy. Take this sentence from chapter XVIII, “A Retrospect:”

“I think continually about my age. Say I am seventeen, and say that seventeen is young for the eldest Miss Larkins, what of that? Besides, I shall be one and twenty in no time almost.”

Here, the narrator, a much older man writing his bildungsroman, remembers his youth with great perspicacity. Sorry. But the way he moves to the thought process of his younger self is worthy of emulation and the hinted second person address is similar to what I’m working with.

J.D. Salinger knew it too. He mentions ol’ Davy in the first sentence of what is obviously the best bildungsroman of the 20th century:  

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Dickens is a boss. ‘Nuff said.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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